Every culture has a tradition of preserving foods, originally born out of necessity and a way of helping to provide foods during times of scarcity.
As a child I watched my mum boil up vast pans of bubbling jams and piquant chutneys to help make the summer and autumn fruits and vegetables last the whole year; a tradition she is still enjoying well into her 70’s.
My fascination with preserved food has grown from this as I find myself now experimenting with ways to not only preserve foods, but also to increase their health benefits. This means stepping aside from the use of sugar and instead embracing the salt.
Salt not only helps to kill off bacteria that may cause the food to deteriorate, but also provides an environment in which beneficial bacteria can thrive. As the bacteria digest the fibres, they convert the carbohydrates into lactic acid, producing the characteristic sour taste.
And so started my adventure into the fascinating world of lacto-fermentation.
Fruit and vegetables fermented with lactobacillus cultures are not only a great source of these probiotic, beneficial bacteria but also provide the prebiotic fibre that these creatures love to feed on. This helps to ensure that the bacteria hang around longer exerting their beneficial effects: helping to support effective digestion and a strong immune system in the gut and providing us with vitamins.
Current research goes beyond this and new evidence has shown how the microbiome in our gut can even influence our mood, food choices and weight management.
So lots of good reasons to keep our gut bacteria happy and well fed!
Working a lot with children in my clinic, I am always looking for ways to boost levels of friendly bacteria in a child-friendly way. Unfortunately, the delights of sauerkraut have yet to appeal to the taste buds of most of the children I work with (including my own daughter).
What has had more success however is a recipe for fermented berries which I originally discovered in Jennifer McGruther’s fabulous Nourished Kitchen.
2 cups mixed berries (blueberries, blackberries and raspberries are my favourite)
2 tbs honey (if your honey is unpasteurized you do not need to add whey)
2 tbs fresh whey or a sprinkling of Starter Culture
¼ tsp sea salt
Put the berries in a pint-size jar. Press the berries down firmly with your clean hand or a wooden spoon.
In a bowl, mix the culture starter or whey, a few tablespoons of water, honey, and salt. Pour the liquid ingredients over the berries, and then fill the jar with filtered water, leaving about 4cms of space at the top. Press down with a wooden spoon to be sure the water has filled all the air pockets. Add more water if necessary.
Make sure the berries are below the waterline, using a weight if necessary (I use a Pickle Pebble). Put the lid on and leave at room temperature for 1-2 days. You know your berries are ready when they taste sour and slightly fizzy! After that, keep refrigerated and use within 1 month.
Delicious whizzed into smoothies, blobbed onto yoghurt, or made into a sauce and drizzled over porridge, pancakes or ice cream!
If you are interested in learning more about fermentation, please join Janine and I for an Adventure with Fermented Foods from our kitchen in Surrey on Sunday 4th March 2018.
For more information, or to book, please contact us on 020 8941 9259 or at firstname.lastname@example.org